NOTE: This week’s column was inspired in part by and dedicated to our own fearless leader – Buddy Saunders.
Greetings from the Odinson,
To say that the Man of Steel inspired the creation of other comic book super heroes is a titanic understatement. Not only was he the original, the template by which all others followed, but from Captain Marvel to Hyperion to Icon, dozens upon dozens of homages have been made in his honor. Another such inspiring character is Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter, the adventurer who, along with Tarzan, laid the groundwork for other pulp heroes like Doc Savage, the Shadow, and the Spider: Master of Men to follow.
Superman and John Carter – Two men from different worlds that adopt homes to protect from the forces of evil. Kal-El was sent to Earth by his scientist father when his homeworld of Krypton was destroyed. His adopted world’s lighter gravity grants him incredible super human strength and allows him to leap tall buildings in a single bound. John Carter was an officer in the American Civil War that suddenly finds himself transported to the red sands of Mars where the lighter gravity grants him incredible super human strength and the ability to leap great distances. As Clark Kent, Kal-El is a mild-mannered reporter raised in the mid-West with downhome family values. As Superman he is in a relationship with Wonder Woman, an Amazon Princess, and he is a champion for truth, justice, and the American Way. On Earth, John Carter is an ex-soldier, a simple southern man seeking his fortune in gold. On Mars, he is the consort of Dejah Thoris, a beautiful, exotic princess, and he is her champion against alien oppressors. These two men are legendary heroes with a lot of similarities and a lot in common.
It’s easy to find similarities in characters that have so much in common, characters like Swamp Thing and Man-Thing (they are both Swampmen), the Sub-Mariner and Black Adam (they are both hot headed anti-hero/villain monarchs with pointy ears), and the Flash and Quicksilver (they both run really, really fast). But, what about characters that have physical similarities but nothing else in common?
Characters with Strikingly Similar Attributes but Nothing in Common
Ghost Rider and The Atomic Skull – They both have flaming skulls for domes, but that’s where the similarities end. Johnny Blaze was a stuntman that in order to save the life of a loved one struck a deal with the devil and became the supernatural repo man of lost souls and the Spirit of Vengeance for those that have been wronged by them! The Atomic Skull was a man transformed by super science into a powerhouse that emits deadly amounts of radiation and can project devastating brain-blasts.
The Human Torch and The Dread Dormammu – This one makes the Odinson laugh. When I was a child in the late 70s and very early 80s, just starting out my foray into the worlds of comics, I had no idea who the Dread Dormammu was but I would see pictures of him pop up from time to time. In my young mind, because of their very similar looks, I concocted an Empire Strikes Back-like backstory that he was in fact the evil father of the Fantastic Four’s Johnny Storm. The way these two characters were drawn in the Silver and Bronze Age, they looked like they had the same exact face and flaming head. So, a young neophyte Odinson could only assume they were related. How surprising to eventually find out that one was the lord and master of a demonic dark dimension and the other was just a wisecracking teenager who loved to give lovable ole Ben Grimm a hotfoot.
Captain America and The Guardian – These men are both products of a bygone era. They both wield mighty shields for justice and had sidekicks (Bucky and the Newsboy Legion) that grew up to become notable cogs in their comic universes (The Winter Soldier and Project Cadmus), but that is where the similarities end. Jim Harper was a 1940s Metropolis police officer that decided to become a masked vigilante. Decades later his mind was transferred from his old, dying body into a young, vital cloned body so that he could continue the fight for justice in the modern world. Steve Rogers was a meek volunteer who was transformed into a super soldier. He fought in World War II. He was frozen and decades later reawakened in the modern era where he now leads Earths Mightiest Heroes in a never-ending battle against injustice.
Hawkman and Angel – They both have birdlike wings, but that is where the similarities between these two high-flying heroes end. Katar Hol is an intergalactic police officer armed with powerful armor and melee weapons powered by alien technology and he possesses the training, physically enhanced strength, and sour demeanor to use them. Warren Worthington III was born a mutant, the next evolutionary step for mankind. He was trained by Professor X, his physical skills honed to a razor’s edge in the infamous Danger Room, and alongside his fellow X-Men, he strives to protect a world that fears and hates him.
Venom and Spawn – They both have symbiotic suits that act like a second skin and grant them unearthly powers and abilities, but that is where the similarities end. Eddie Brock was a disenfranchised photographer with a misguided grudge against rival photographer Peter Parker who bonded with the alien symbiote that Spider-Man had cast aside when it tried to take control of him, and like a jilted lover, the alien symbiote also holds a grudge. Brock and the symbiote formed a bond and became the Lethal Protector, a sometimes villain, sometimes anti-hero known as Venom. Al Simmons, a government assassin that was betrayed and murdered by those he worked for, made a deal with the devil and has now returned as the supernatural warrior known as Spawn. Spawn struggles to find a place in a world of mobsters, monsters, serial killers, cyborg-assassins, and a war between Heaven and Hell.
OMAC and Gladiator – They both are immensely powerful beings sporting magnificent mohawks, but that is where the similarities end. In the future, Buddy Blank, the One Man Army Corps, is empowered with super human strength, speed, and endurance and helps keep the peace in a world constantly teetering on the brink of chaos. Kallark is the Praetor of the Shi’ar Imperial Guard, an elite fighting force comprised of powerful alien beings from around the galaxy that serve as bodyguards for the Shi’ar monarchy and protect the Empire’s interests at home and abroad.
Captain Marvel and Doc Samson – I include these two on the list because guys with lightning bolts on their chests are super cool. Other than this very superficial similarity, these two heroes really have absolutely nothing in common. When teenager Billy Batson utters the magical word SHAZAM he is transformed by a bolt of lightning into the earthly avatar of Olympian might, a super hero with powers and abilities to rival the Man of Steel himself. Leonard Samson was transformed by Gamma radiation into a super human adventurer with a fraction of the Hulk’s incredible strength but kept all of his human intelligence. Samson possesses immense guilt over Bruce Banner’s plight and has made it his lifelong quest to cure the man of his curse. Samson also is a working psychiatrist whose clients include She-Hulk and members of X-Factor.
Doctor Solar and Cyclops – These were the two guys that got me thinking about a list like this in the first place. They both wear super cool, very distinct Devo-like visors, but that is where the similarities end. Solar was a scientist that was transformed by a nuclear accident into a man with astonishing atomic powers! Doctor Solar is one of the most powerful super heroes in the comic book multiverse. Scott Summers was the first X-Man, born with the incredible ability to project beams of immense destructive force from his eyes. This sets him apart from his fellow man. He fights alongside the X-Men to protect mankind and fight for mutant equality and rights.
From John Carter, the hero that launched the Pulp Age of Adventure, and Superman, the hero that launched the Golden Age of Comics and the Age of the Modern Day Super Hero, two characters with a great deal in common to Doctor Solar and Cyclops, two of the most uniquely identifiable comic book characters in history, headliners of a list of characters with strikingly similar attributes but never-the-less characters with very little else in common, this is the Odinson’s tribute to inspiration. Inspiration creates similarities, big and small, and it creates great ideas. Ideas are the driving force behind our beloved medium and without inspiration there can be no ideas.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell